Friday, June 29, 2012


The Beauty of Venice

Hello Everyone

I hope you are well and at peace.

Whilst I was running a Parish mission in Duagh,
County Kerry, an eleven year old girl and her
mother came to speak with me. This young girl
had lost the sight in one of her eyes in an accident
which happened a year previously. A friend of
hers had thrown a stone and it had hit her in the
eye. The amazing thing was that she had completely
forgiven her friend and she had a beautiful sense of
of peace about her. When she had heard me share
my story on the Monday night she had told her mum
that she wanted to come and ask me for a hug but
had been afraid to do so, this time there was no
such shyness and I gave her a big hug. The thing she
most loved doing was gymnastics and she told me
that she had a big competition the coming weekend
and asked would I pray for her. A week later I
received a phone call telling me that she had won the
competition and she was thanking God. I thought it
was the least she deserved for her amazing witness of
forgiveness and courage.

Because of the fact that I am often travelling to
different place to do talks and run retreats God has
taught me some good lessons about discerning his
will. I find that in his will there are always little
miracles and you can see his hand at work, but if
I don't consult with him it is a disaster. A few years
ago I was asked to go and do some talks in Boston
in the USA. I jumped at the chance because I had
always wanted to visit Boston. Very quickly I
booked my flights and accommodation and put the
dates into my diary of engagements. A couple of 
months later the talks were cancelled. 
But because I had cleared the time in my diary and it 
wasn't possible to get a refund for the flights or hotel,
I travelled out anyway and used it as a holiday. The 
first day I arrived there I caught the Swine Flu and
I was confined to the hotel room for the entire week,
I saw virtually nothing of Boston and I felt awful,
physically and spiritually. At the end of the week I
was praying and I said to the Lord, "What was this
all about?" and I felt he said "Well you never asked
me about this trip, you came here simply because you
wanted to, it was nothing to do with me" It really hit
me because I knew it was true.

That whole episode taught me a massive lesson and
since then I pray about every trip I make. Whether or
not it is God's will? Where I should stay? How I should
travel? How long should I go for? No matter how enticing
something can look, it can easily be a red herring to take
us away from the people and places that God wants to lead
us to.

When I try (to the best of my ability) to discern God's will,
I always notice his blessing and grace on what I do. Recently
I had a weekend free before the mission in Kerry began and
I was asking God where he wanted me to go. I felt he wanted
me to go to a place called Sneem. When I arrived there, not
only was it very peaceful with breathtaking scenery, but
when I went to the local Church the priest who was saying
Mass was standing in for the village priest and he recognised
me and booked me to come and do a mission in his Parish.
Not only that but I met a person in the hotel and gave him a
copy of my book which came at exactly the right time in his
life. Now only God could arrange those things.

Next I went to Italy to do talks in and around Venice, It was
a joy to see the openness in the people that I met, there were
a lot of tears and I was very moved by their deep faith in God.
I spoke in parishes and schools and because of the earthquake
that took place one school talk was called off, but I was invited
to speak to a group of seminarians instead, which was a privilege.
These lads were on fire for God.

My good friend Augusto who published my book in Italian was
my translator during my time in Italy and we had a blessed few 
days together. One day he was looking to book a place to stay in 
Venice and he said he would stay at any old place, I said to him 
"Have you prayed where God wants you to stay?" and he just didn't
think it was important to God where he stayed. So I told him the 
whole Boston story that I mentioned earlier and he took it on board 
straight away and said from now on he would ask God into everything.

Years ago I had a friend named Michael and he felt called by God
to travel from place to place and to share his story at AA meetings.
He told me that he asked God into everything, even if he was going
shopping for clothes. One time he didn't have much money so he
told God that he needed a new jacket and asked for help in finding one.
He walked into a second hand shop and he saw a Jacket that he really
liked and it fitted him perfectly. This kind of stuff happened to him all
the time and he showed me that God does care about the little details
of our lives and wants to be involved. Michael's influence has stayed
with me and the greatest joy in my life is walking in God's presence.

This was my second trip to Venice but somehow the last time
I hadn't noticed the beauty of my surroundings, I think that was because
I had been so busy caught up doing what I thought was important 
rather than being in the present moment and seeing the wonder 
in the people and places that we encounter.

After returning from Italy I did a couple of talks at events connected to
the Eucharistic congress which took place in Dublin. The first was 
arranged by Luison who is part of Opus Dei, I was very impressed 
by his dedication and his obvious love for the young people who he was 
ministering to.

The second talk had a profound effect on me, it was to a small group of
secondary school students from Northern Ireland who had been brought
to the congress by one of their teachers. As I was sharing my story with
them I became aware that many of them had suffered a lot, even though
they were very young. But despite all the hurt they were still so open to 
God. At the end of the talk, some of them came and shared that hearing 
how God had come to me and taken me from such a dark and hopeless 
place had really touched their hearts. Then to my surprise the teacher got 
all of them to get out the musical instruments they had been carrying with 
them and to sing a song of praise to God. Well I don't exaggerate when I 
say that when they started to play I nearly fell over backwards with the 
power of the Holy Spirit and all of the children noticed that I was crying, 
and I thought to myself "Is this just me?" and I turned around to see my 
friend Niall with tears streaming down his face also. There is nothing more
beautiful than the love of God and the precious children that he has created.

You are in my heart and prayers.

God bless you in his deep love